Welcome Home! (And a Great Legal Career)

Author: Lauren Love

Dalton Patterson, ’15 J.D.

In July of 2015, I was at Notre Dame Law School doing some last-minute studying for the Illinois Bar Exam. I had returned home to Washington, D.C., for most of the summer, so I had not been back to NDLS since graduation in May. As I was trying to memorize the rules for adverse possession for perhaps the millionth time, I was approached by my first-year Constitutional law professor who warmly said “Welcome home.” I could not have agreed more.

Law school can be many things, but most would not consider it “home.” That is not true for students at NDLS. Whether it is the small class sizes, the engaging professors that care about their students’ success, or the football games, students at NDLS (and former students such as myself) really feel that they are part of a community and that the school is “home.”

Now, you may be saying: “I get it, the community is great, but does NDLS provide educational opportunities that prepare you for a job? Most importantly, can my degree from NDLS make me competitive for a job?” To both of these questions, I can affirmatively say “yes.” In regards to the former question, while at NDLS I was involved in many organizations. As vice president of the Black Law Student Association, I helped plan and organize events for the organization and assisted with bringing speakers from the legal field to speak at NDLS — among the speakers was a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Additionally, as a member of the Moot Court Appellate Board, I served on the Seventh Circuit team. As a member of the team, I represented a real client in front of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. This process involved both writing a brief to the Seventh Circuit, and orally arguing in front of the Seventh Circuit against an attorney from the federal government.

Both of these experiences helped me to secure my current job as a law clerk for a judge in Maryland, as well as my next job as an associate for a firm in Washington, D.C., that concentrates on administrative and election law. When I interviewed for both of those positions, the judge and the firm were impressed by my work with BLSA and the fact that as a law student I had already represented a real client in front of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. After they determined that I had competency in the law, the judge and the firm then wanted to talk with me about Notre Dame — either they knew someone who had a positive experience at the school or they loved the football team. Most importantly, they hired me after the interviews.

My experiences at Notre Dame also prepared me for these jobs. As vice president of BLSA, I had to learn how to network and organize. As a member of the Seventh Circuit team, I developed my legal writing and researching skills. All of these skills have been essential in my transition from law student to lawyer.

In sum, there are warmer places and cities with bigger buildings than South Bend. However, if community is important to you, if small classes and professors that care about their students are important to you, if amazing educational opportunities are important to you, and if being competitive for a job is important to you, then you should strongly consider Notre Dame.